Fleur Sexton’s blog: Practical tips to help teenagers get through the GCSE exam season

GCSEs arrive at an inconvenient time for teenagers – just as their social lives are taking off and hormones are raging, parents and teachers ask them to go to their rooms with just a pile of notes and revision questions for company.

Generally speaking boys find this harder than girls. While girls tend to be self-organised and almost enjoy colour-coding their notes, charts and revision cards, boys can be overwhelmed by the seeming immensity of the task ahead. Boys mature later and need more infrastructure put in around them.

Knuckling down to revision takes some doing and is best achieved in a calm environment. It’s important to keep stress to a minimum and make sure that teenagers get the message that while exams are important, good mental health is worth more.

I think we massively underestimate just how much effort it takes to keep a youngster on track.

Here are my top tips:

  • Break their revision programme down into tiny chunks – boys in particular need to see immediate results and if the task seems too big they will lose the will. Perhaps suggest a reward system based on very short-term goals, for example, after they do x amount of questions they can treat themselves to an hour of television.
  •  Keep things calm and level and avoid drama – you won’t make them revise by telling them what will happen if they don’t do it. There’s probably enough panic spreading among their social circle, without adding to it!
  •  Avoid stress – people around them must create a calm environment. Keep things level. No drama. Keep things light and bright. You won’t make them revise by threatening them with a nightmare scenario about what will happen if they don’t do well.
  •  Look at their learning styles; for example kinaesthetic learners need to be active in their learning, making posters, walking around chanting verb conjugations and matching up flash cards.
  • On that note, make sure phones are, as a minimum, on silent and preferably in another room – they can be checked during breaks. A teenager is connected to their whole world via their social media apps – it’s the equivalent of an adult trying to revise in the middle of a party!
  • Sort out the right environment– it could be as simple as making sure they have clear space which is well-lit, pens that work, healthy snacks and plenty of water.
  •  Keep things in proportion – and watch out for signs of stress, such as a withdrawn child, sleep disturbance, loss of appetite.
  • Finally everyone needs to bear in mind, that while important, GCSEs are just a stepping stone. Some students are simply late developers and may not do their best at this age. Impress upon them that they should just do enough to ensure they don’t close any doors by getting what they need as their ‘passport’ for the next stage – generally maths, English and science.


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